Luton Airport considers options to target plane noise blight across Hertfordshire

An aerial view of St Albans city centre as seen from an Easyjet flight from Luton Airport to Amsterd

An aerial view of St Albans city centre as seen from an Easyjet flight from Luton Airport to Amsterdam, Netherlands. - Credit: Archant

Luton Airport has asked airlines to have their planes climb as quickly as possible when permitted, without creating significant additional noise from increased thrust, according to a report.

At a recent meeting with local communities to discuss the plane noise blight, airport representatives said there were several options to target the problem including, in the short term, trying to have planes fly 1,000 feet higher.

This newspaper has received emails from fed up residents complaining of planes flying at altitudes far less than 4,000 feet, including at midnight over built up areas.

When it comes to increased noise pollution, the European Parliament recently warned that people’s quality of life can be affected, leading to increased levels of stress, sleep disturbance, and it also impacts on wildlife.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has labelled noise as a ‘leading environmental nuisance’ and recommends night noise of less than 40 decibels outside homes to prevent adverse health effects.

However, during the meeting, Hertfordshire-based campaign group LADACAN showed in a bar graph that in 2015 alone, 19 per cent of night flights were 76dB or above – 80dB is the equivalent of an alarm clock ringing.

Luton Airport said in a report on the meeting that it was to explore the possibility of reducing altitude constraints in place for the ‘interaction’ between its westerly departures and Heathrow’s easterly departures when both airfields are operating from westerly runways.

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In the medium term, Luton will undertake a feasibility study to see how a flight path affecting the area can be designed to reach 10,000 feet every time, by the time planes cross the railway between Harpenden and St Albans.

Residents and councillors attending the meeting asked why all flights on the westerly departure went south and then east over towns and cities - which mainly affects Hertfordshire - and why they could not instead “be routed north and then east over rural Bedfordshire?”

Luton is located in Beds and is owned by the local borough council, which receives vast sums of money from it.

According to a recent report from that authority, in 2015/16 the value of this income was £11.5 million; in 2016/17 - because of a rapid, and major rise in passenger numbers - it is forecast to increase to almost £26 million.

Luton Airport told people at the community meeting that routing flights across neighbouring Beds was proposed in 2008 by air traffic controller, NATS, as part of an airspace change process. However, these would have “increased the number of people affected by noise by 110 per cent”.

The airport’s lacklustre response has led to further anger and prompted the formation of a new campaign group, St Albans Quieter Skies (STAQS), representing people in Sandridge, Jersey Farm, Marshalswick and north St Albans.

Chairman Sharon Hollingsworth said: “Over the past year people have really noticed things getting worse: there are more planes, they affect more hours of the day and they are flying a more concentrated line right over this area. Previously they were much more spread out - now we get the lot.”

She said that despite the meeting with Luton, “it was a real struggle just to get the airport operators to accept that the real issue is not crowded airspace or technical constraints - it’s noise and how that affects people on the ground.”

St Albans district councillor Roma Mills, a member of STAQS, said: “We need to campaign for change, since there is still much expansion to come and the effects are causing real problems”.